How To: Endings

Endings of a story have a special place in my writerly heart. Finding the right ending to a story, especially a longer project that I’ve been working on for a while, is a large reason why I write.

So, how do you write a good ending? I’ve got some top three tips to consider when writing your own ending for your project.

Tip 1 – Make the reader satisfied

The ending has to have an emotional payoff for the reader, to close their journey through the story. How many times have you read a book, or watched a TV show or movie to have the ending that just…feel a bit flat?

Yeh, it sucks.

Now, you can’t always predict how every reader will react to an ending. But when writing, keep in mind your “ideal reader” (as coined by Stephen King in his book On Writing). This is the reader you’re writing the story for, which commonly is someone you know (or even yourself!).

Your Ideal Reader will want to be satisfied by the ending. What do I mean by that, you ask? Well, it comes in a number of forms:

  • Resolution of main story arc;
  • Growth of the main character through their own arc
  • (and my personal favourite) an ending which leaves the reader with an emotional question to consider.

To get a good ending, especially one that ties up a number of plot points, will take a lot of work. To get one that satisfies the reader will need multiple edits, input from beta readers, and even more edits.

However, the payoff is definitely worth it – having a powerful ending makes the reader want more, which, if your intention is to get them to read more stories of yours, is a powerful tactic.

Tip 2 – Tie up your plot points

This is a tip for when you’re editing. If you feel like your existing editing is falling a bit flat, then it could be that your plots threads throughout your story aren’t leading up to that ending in order to give the reader the satisfaction payoff at the end of the story.

As you go through your edit, whenever you come across a stray plot thread, pause for a moment. Consider how this will move your story towards your ending, or away from it?

If towards, then does this plot thread really advance the story enough to be a separate plot thread? Would it be more powerful if it was tied in with another plot idea you have?

If away, then consider why you put the plot thread in. Does this direction take you to a different, better, ending, or does it weaken the ending you already have?

Tip 3 – A strong last line

I absolutely love a strong last line. Something that really resonates when it’s written down, like the final note of an orchestra ringing in the silence of an auditorium before the applause begins.

Finding the right last line is a by-product of Tips 1 and 2 above. Once you’ve constructed your story to tie up your plot points and have created an ending that focusses on the satisfaction payoff to the reader, you can narrow down your focus to the final line.

Whether you want to end on a statement, a piece of exposition, even a “fade to black” type scene, every ending is unique. Finding a strong last line (just like finding a good opening hook), can take time, edits and patience to really get right.

To find a good last line, I recommend considering the following thoughts:

  • What’s the overall arc of your story, summed up in a sentence? Would the last line work better if it called back to this arc?
  • Is there a particular plot thread that has been really important throughout the story? If so, can you use the conclusion of this thread to be your last line?
  • If you’re writing a series – what is the hook you want to keep readers interested in the next book? Is there an ongoing theme that you can hint to in the final line which makes the readers curious as to more?

Endings are great fun, and one of my favourite parts of writing. I hope these tips are helpful to you as well!

Alex.J.Cobalt is a fantasy writer from the UK. When she’s not working away at her fantasy novel series, she posts free flash fictions on her website, along with regular blogs about writing.

Photo Credit: Mathilde Langevin on Unsplash

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